Buffalo has started an Opiate Crisis Intervention Court to deal with the rising heroin epidemic right here in Western New York, making it the first of it's kind in the country.
With the support of local government, law and health service officials, this new court that started at the beginning of May will work with the city's existing Drug Court, but will offer more immediate help to those suffering from addiction.
Buffalo's Chief Judge Thomas Amodeo said, "we were finding that opiate addicts who were arrested needed more immediate and much more significant support."
Under the supervision of City Court Judge Craig Hannah, intervention will start immediately after the individual is arrested, screened for opiate addiction and arraigned - there is no waiting.
From there, that individual is referred to an appropriate treatment program, with counseling, guidance and the support of the justice system and community from day one.
"Our goal is to save lives. That is our purpose," Hannah said. "If saving lives means we got to put their criminal case on the bench for 30, 60, or 90 days, we have our partners in government who agreed to do it and we're going to do it."
Buffalo is the only city in the country to receive a federal grant to pilot a program of this nature. Thus far, 43 people have gone through the court. Hannah says, because of it, dozens of people struggling with addiction now have the treatment they need to beat it.
While this court functions on a case-to-case basis, experts with Horizon Health Services say it has proven overall very effective.